I stayed at the compound last night.  The sheets are edged with delicate lace.  I left the dogs at home so I could sleep without disturbance.   I slept solidly and woke at 6am.  A light mist covered the immediate landscape.  The gardeners were hosing the paths, the foal was feeding.  A large flock of geese keep a watchful eye over me.    I drove home to two ecstatic dogs.  We walked beyond the Cordoba gate.  A rough, dusty path.

They went to the vet yesterday.  The little dog needed his anal glands expressed and Dude has an ear infection.  Total for visit and medication: $40.

After walking them both, The Little Dog and I (punctuated by a brief and violent encounter with a mini pincer) walked to the forum and drank the most bitter espresso. Early mornings in Carmona are cool and busy.  Spanish friends and neighbours chatter, the din echoes from the marble floor up to the roman arches.  Hundreds of equally noisy swallows dive in and out of the Ficus.

I don’t understand a word.  I order my coffee and sit quietly enjoying the breeze.   I am invisible.  On the way home I speak to no one.  I nod if they speak to me.  I am invisible.  I linger outside the house I like on Dolores Quintanilla.  My phone only works with wifi.  I am invisible.

The gardener harvested huge baskets of figs, tomatoes and aubergine.   The kitchen staff washed the red earth away from the purple and cream vegetables and delighted over the bounty.   The larder is full.  

Last night we took Lily for one of our late night promenade around the city.  We talk to old ladies about houses: empty, abandoned, for sale.  We find a cobbled lane and see an ancient house with weeds growing on the roof.  The windows are un-renovated, the bars have been fashioned by a blacksmith and not a machine.  The door has large mental studs hammered all over it.   Opposite there is an elderly widow sitting outside her house in a deck chair.  We ask her what’s for sale, is the house we like for sale?  She stows the chair, fetches her crutch and takes us to meet her neighbours.   She raps on their windows and whispers secrets about them to us.

“You can buy my house,” her friend laughs, “But it comes with my husband, I’ll pack my bags now.”

90% of the ancient alley is for sale.  A man from Madrid bought three of them, bricked up the windows and doors and they never saw him again.  Behind every door in the ancient part of the city there are endless surprises.   Courtyards, roman tiles, arches of marble or hand-made brick.  The best properties have been lived in but left untouched for 100 years… and there are plenty like that.

In our local restaurant, a few steps from the house, a young and handsome Spaniard practices passing a muleta they keep for decoration behind the bar.  A muleta is the stiff, pink taffeta cape used by the bullfighter to conceal the sword.  There are many styles of pass, each with its own name. The verónica is a pass in which the matador slowly swings the cape away from the charging bull while keeping his feet in the same position.  The faena is the final series of passes before the kill, in which the matador uses the muleta to manoeuvre the bull into a position to stab it between the shoulders, cutting the aorta. If this fails he must then cut the bull’s spinal cord with a second sword, killing it instantly. The task of killing the bull is given to the matador alone; his title means “killer”.

The young man in the restaurant had such grace.  He was impossibly beautiful.  His friend wraps an arm around him as they leave.  There are bull fights on the TV in the bar.  It’s hard to watch but god… it’s honest.  Killing the bull.  Eating beef.  Sport, entertainment… luxury… death.

Back in the USA I am preparing for my own fight.  I am preparing.  I am holding the cape. I am concealing the sword.